The first official road log will be up soon, but for now I wanted to share a few general observations on cycling in Mexico:
- The border area felt very safe. I don’t regret any of the planning and preparation we did to minimize risk, but the dire warnings were overwrought. Traveling by daylight and staying in safe places at night, I have not felt in any real danger at any time. This might be different if I were going out to bars, engaging in risky behavior or flashing money and expensive belongings.
- More than just safe, the border area is beautiful. South of Nuevo Laredo is a savanna far more lush and green than I could have expected. Wide open spaces with few fences and fewer buildings. The tall grass along the roadside rustled with tiny animals as we pedaled by. It’s glorious. All of you who warned me away: go and buy a ticket to Monterrey for your next vacation.
- Traffic seems much safer here. Even though I’ve been mainly on major federal highways, the heavy traffic seems to give me plenty of space with few exceptions. This was true not only when we had a slow-moving support vehicle behind us, but even now, out there alone. I think drivers in Mexico are used to seeing lots of people on bicycles, as well as other obstacles like dogs, carts, mules, pedestrians on freeways, etc. They assume they have to be alert and as a result they give me plenty of space.
- The above notwithstanding, I notice a lot more of those roadside memorials were people died in accidents. Maybe it’s just in my head, but there seem to be 2-3 times as many as in the US. That might indicate a higher accident rate, but it also might just mean the shrines are maintained better. I can easily picture a Mexican mother making the trip out every single week to refresh flowers, where a US family might just go once a year on the anniversary of the accident, at least after the initial period of mourning.
- I have not camped out at all yet, largely because of the unseasonably cold weather, and I’m pretty happy about that. I love camping, but feel less than secure stealth camping even in the US.
- This country is not as cheap as Americans say it is. I’m not sure where some bicycle bloggers get their numbers, talking of $10 hotels even in posts from the last five years. The cheapest hotel room I’ve found was 290 pesos, about US $25, and that was at a grubby and truly ramshackle little truck stop. (If there’s something cheaper than this, I’m a little afraid to see it.) Most hotels are closer to US $50. Similarly, meals are easily US $5-9. While these prices are substantially less than the US equivalent, they are nothing like the prices travel bloggers gleefully recite. If I continue in hotels the whole way, my budget will be a lot higher than I expected.
Those are the basics. Have any questions? Let me know and I’ll do my best to answer.